12/04/17 — Prevention, education key when battling diabetes

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Prevention, education key when battling diabetes

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 4, 2017 5:50 AM

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Billy Tart, center, is lifestyle coach for the Goldsboro Family YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program.

Joanie Bradshaw only needed one small reason to take care of her health -- her 3-year-old granddaughter.

"It was hard for me to keep up with her -- I was out of shape, I was not exercising," the 57-year-old Goldsboro woman said.

Like many, she admits she had a tendency to put herself last when it came to taking care of herself.

But then she learned about the Goldsboro Family YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program, which helps adults lose weight through healthier eating and increased physical activity. The group-based lifestyle program is geared toward those at risk of developing diabetes and toward preventing its onset.

Bradshaw hadn't been diagnosed with diabetes -- which made her eligible for the program -- but she was concerned that it might one day happen.

"In January 2017, I attended my first class, a bit reluctant as to whether it would benefit me or not," she said. "I had gained well over 30 pounds over the last few years with the majority of it being in my tummy area, where I know that puts me at a higher risk of diabetes.

"I had really just about given up on any hope of ever losing my body fat again when my sister asked me about attending these classes with her."

Alice Huneycutt, program coordinator, describes the yearlong program as featuring 25 sessions total. The first six months, it meets weekly, she explained, then tapers off to monthly sessions.

While Bradshaw was a bit reticent, she said it helped to go with her sister, coupled by the education and support she found there.

"We had weekly meetings and we just kind of poured ourselves into it and started seeing results. I had tried different things before and didn't see any results," she said. "It started out with counting calories, which was an eye-opening experience since I had no idea the amount of calories I was consuming in a day's time."

She began walking on the track at the YMCA and has increased her physical activity over time, she says.

Not only did she reach her goal of losing those 30 pounds, she says, but has been able to stick with the regimen and keep the weight off.

In addition to improved health, she said there have been other dividends.

"I have a 3-year-old granddaughter that I can now keep up with, I feel so much better about how I feel in my clothes and my energy level is way higher than it has been in a very long time," she said. "Last year at this time I couldn't wear blue jeans comfortably and now I'm wearing blue jeans.

"I just feel better about myself. I just want to continue what I have been doing. I know what to do now."

Billy Tart, lifestyle coach, has facilitated the program for more than a year.

That's exactly the kind of testimonial he likes to hear.

As a nurse, he has seen the effects of diabetes firsthand -- in others as well as himself.

"I have been there," he said. "I know how important it is on a personal level, having seen diabetes in my family and from being at the Y. I know how activity and leading a healthy lifestyle is important to prevent diabetes.

"There's no magic pill or anything that's just going to be instant. It takes commitment over time and sticking to it."

When Tart learned about the evidence-based program and was approached to lead it, he was on board. He knows the importance of developing good habits and enjoys the open, nonjudgmental atmosphere.

It is a "lifestyle program," Huneycutt noted. It is not a diet but is meant to be sustainable.

Tart agreed, saying that the effort goes beyond doling out information.

"It's about sharing and being part of a group, developing some good habits that they figure out on their own, from the curriculum and from each other," he said.

As health care evolves, community organizations like the YMCA can play a vital role in chronic disease prevention, said Vanessa Spiron, senior program director at the Y.

Those interested in the program can assess their risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes by taking a simple test at the website, YMCA.net/diabetes. Some factors that put a person at risk include race, age, weight and activity level.

For more information on how to qualify for access to the Diabetes Prevention Program, contact Huneycutt at alice.huneycutt@goldsboroymca.org or visit www.goldsboroymca.org.